Nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) inhibits excitatory and inhibitory synaptic signaling in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)

H. S. Gompf, M. G. Moldavan, R. P. Irwin, C. N. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Environmental synchronization of the endogenous mammalian circadian rhythm involves glutamatergic and GABAergic neurotransmission within the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The neuropeptide nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) inhibits light-induced phase shifts, evokes K+-currents and reduces the intracellular Ca2+ concentration in SCN neurons. Since these effects are consistent with a modulatory role for N/OFQ on synaptic transmission in the SCN, we examined the effects of N/OFQ on evoked and spontaneous excitatory and inhibitory currents in the SCN. N/OFQ produced a consistent concentration-dependent inhibition of glutamate-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSC) evoked by optic nerve stimulation. N/OFQ did not alter the amplitude of currents induced by application of (RS)-α-amino-3-hydroxy-5- methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) or N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) nor the amplitude of miniature EPSC (mEPSC) consistent with a lack of N/OFQ effect on postsynaptic AMPA or NMDA receptors. N/OFQ significantly reduced the mEPSC frequency. The inhibitory actions of N/OFQ were blocked by ω-conotoxin GVIA, an N-type Ca2+channel antagonist and partially blocked by ω-agatoxin TK, a P/Q type Ca2+ channel blocker. These data indicate that N/OFQ reduces evoked EPSC, in part, by inhibiting the activity of N- and P/Q-type Ca2+ channels. In addition, N/OFQ produced a consistent reduction in baseline Ca2+ levels in presynaptic retinohypothalamic tract terminals. N/OFQ also inhibited evoked GABAA receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSC) in a concentration dependent manner. However, N/OFQ had no effect on currents activated by muscimol application or on the amplitude of miniature IPSC (mIPSC) and significantly reduced the mIPSC frequency consistent with an inhibition of GABA release downstream from Ca2+ entry. Finally, N/OFQ inhibited the paired-pulse depression observed in SCN GABAergic synapses consistent with a presynaptic mechanism of action. Together these results suggest a widespread modulatory role for N/OFQ on the synaptic transmission in the SCN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)955-965
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2005


  • Calcium channel
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Excitatory postsynaptic current
  • GABA
  • Inhibitory postsynaptic current
  • Synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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